Bill Johnson answers question, ‘Why UFO Days’

 By Kaye Bird, Contributor, Gateway News
Saturday, July 25, 2015 12:01 AM

Bill Johnson, retired professor at UW/Stout will be presenting a talk entitled, “Why UFO Days” on Saturday and Sunday this upcoming weekend. Don’t miss it! Photo by Kaye Bird

MENOMONIE, WI – Bill Johnson, retired professor from UW/Stout has the answer for anyone who has ever wondered, “Why does Elmwood celebrate UFO Days?”

Remember the tagline from The X-Files, “The Truth is Out There?” On Saturday afternoon, July 25, 2015 that “truth” will be revealed. And the truth is this—there have been several UFO sightings in the Elmwood area.

“Roswell, New Mexico has had one sighting; Elmwood has had several,” said Johnson adding, “You have to wonder why. Some people say it’s because of its location—it’s in a valley.” To that Johnson would reply, “So is Spring Valley and Plum City, and I haven’t heard of any sightings in those towns.”

It was in 1974 when Johnson decided that he wanted to be a UFO researcher. He flew to Tucson, Arizona and stayed with a friend. “To me the most impressive and widely respected group at that time was the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization or APRO based in Arizona and led by Jim and Coral Lorenzen,” said Johnson.

He soon became a member of APRO and later a field investigator. About two years later, he got a call from APRO regarding a sighting in Elmwood. The phenomena witnessed by Officer George Wheeler prompted Bill to give Wheeler a call.

According to Johnson, in April of 1975,Wheeler told him about a sighting where he saw an orange glow in the direction of Tuttle Hill. He called police dispatcher Gail Helmer to report his intention to investigate. Upon reaching the top of the hill, he saw a silvery craft about 500 feet away him hovering over an alfalfa field next to the quarry. He estimated the size of the object to be about 250 feet wide or “Bigger than a two story house” with an orange light that was too bright to look at directly. A blue flash of light came from the object and that’s the last thing he remembers. David Moots, a farmer in the area, saw the car, found the driver’s side door open with Officer Wheeler lying unconscious on the front seat. His patrol car that had been running fine before the incident now needed new points, plugs and a starter.

Wheeler spent three days in the hospital and was later re-hospitalized. He passed away in 1977. The first “UFO” sighting was in December of 1956. Several additional sightings have been reported since, the last one being in June of 1998.

So does Professor Johnson believe in UFOs? First of all you need to change the question to “Does he believe in Ariel Phenomena?” because he said we can’t actually know they are flying.

If you have additional questions and about two hours to spare, this very learned man can explain what he does and does not believe in and why.

Still, he acknowledges there must be something to these stories. “I don’t believe these stories are made up—these people I interviewed are all credible witnesses, and they all have similar stories,” he said.

And then there’s this. “Most people, if had the choice,” said Johnson, “would not have wanted to see what they saw.” There are articles and video of people talking about their experiences at the Elmwood Library. It’s quite extensive and available for anyone who wants to do his/her own research at the library. 

Since 1978, Johnson has attended UFO Days every other year, but it was last year when he decided to ask the man and woman on the street what they are celebrating. “I couldn’t find anyone who knew very much, if anything,” he said. That’s when a plan began to form in his mind. He showed up at the Village Board UFO Days planning meeting and presented his idea which was to explain why the town celebrates UFOs. They liked it and put his proposed idea on the list of weekend events. He has had plenty of experience in front of crowds, so this should be a fascinating experience for those attending.

Johnson, upon retirement, donates much of his free time to the Mabel Tainter Theater Guild in Menomonie where he lives. “I went from being an usher to creating scenery and sound effects to acting. He has had prominent roles in “A Streetcar named Desire,” “Twelve Angry Men,” and “The Importance of Being Ernest” to mention a few. He had the lead role in “On Golden Pond.” He also likes to travel.

On Saturday afternoon, July 25 at 2:00 pm and again on Sunday afternoon on July 26, 2015, at 12:30 pm, Johnson will be presenting his findings and sharing them with the help Ashton Buss and Desiree McKenna who have agreed to help with the visuals.

What a perfect way to complete UFO Days. Johnson will have a lot of information about UFOs and their history in Elmwood, but if you’re hoping for some definitive answers, you might have to wait a little longer. “The sightings is something we haven’t figured out yet,” he said.

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